I don't know about you, but I had Health class once a week, for an hour, in high school. I don't even remember if I had Health every year. We had a memorable teacher, but I have to admit I was one of the majority who rarely paid attention. I had better things to do.
Education has come a long way over the years, progressive initiatives shimmying in and out of schools and programs, but I feel we have yet to get it fully right. Kids leave school (and enter college) woefully unprepared for real life, and leave college similarly unprepared. It's only over the painful years that follow that we receive the education we should always have.
These are things I know I was not taught in school or anywhere else, and things I will make a priority of teaching my children. Here are the eight I've identified:
Budgeting - Unless you took a Personal Finance class in high school (which I'm not sure even exists, since I just made it up), you probably wandered out into the harsh sunlight of the world with little clue how to manage your personal affairs. You may or may not have opened a small personal account, and carried a few twenties around with you on the weekends. Raise your hand, though, if you found yourself flat broke anytime before, during, or after college.
Self-Worth/Self-Concept - Behold the most worthwhile lesson ever to teach a child - the lesson of getting to know and love the person he or she is. And what better place to learn such a concept than a treacherous snakepit like a high school? Better yet, how about an elementary or middle school? I know that funds are allocated for math and science, and there are private and alternative schools that actually do address the self, but this issue is so, so important in the life of a young adult. The biggest problem kids face today is bullying. Imagine programs, actual school programs, built and centered around acceptance of self and others. It could make a huge difference.
Moderation - Growing up in a college town really illuminated the stupidity of college students. Overfilled porches collapsed, kids plummeted to their deaths. Students semi-regularly died of alcohol poisoning. I know that it's difficult to get through to teenagers (trust me, I was one of them), especially about topics like drinking and partying, but there's got to be a way that works. We could find it and save lives.
Credit, Debt, and Investing - When I was twenty, I became giddy when I saw the neatly dressed Citibank representative at the end of a ramp leading to the quad. I was squealing inside with delight. They were giving out credit cards with your picture on them?!? And what's more tempting to a twenty-year-old than a picture ID? Funny thing was, as I admired my smiling mug in my card, I didn't have a clue what the APR was, and decided it was perfectly acceptable to purchase my lunch (three breadsticks or a six-inch Roasted Chicken Breast sub with cheese, pickles, and light mayonnaise) with it every day. I didn't realize that store cards offered a twenty-percent discount, but charged twenty-five for the money.
In seventh grade, with little explanation, we played a round of The Stock Market Game. I picked three stocks (with zero actual knowledge of what the companies were) and watched myself plummet to dead last by the end of the game. Why? Because I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know what a stock was. No one had ever taught me. To this day, I still have only a vague idea what an IRA is. Suze Ormon, unfortunately, is my primary advisor. Money is something we all need to live. Why aren't we taught how to use it properly?
How to Cook - I laughed at the prospect of taking a Home Economics class in middle school, but somehow found myself in the class. I baked a cake. All the way through. But may I tell you just how many of my friends and colleagues don't know how to cook? Further, are you aware how many of your compatriots are not aware of what's in the food they're eating? Or where their food is coming from? Or how to grow a vegetable? Or what unspeakable acts occurred to get that chicken on the table? We all need to eat, and eat responsibly. There's just so much that must be learned.
Identifying Unhealthy Relationships - I've seen so, so many friends stuck in pits of despair in relationships with incompatible mates. Likewise, I've seen friends flat-out torture their significant others. I've seen friends endure domestic violence and even spiral into addiction at the hands of those they love. School does not teach you about good or bad people, manipulators, liars, con artists, or sociopaths. Nor does it teach you how to effectively deal with said people or to protect yourself. Further, there's no class in school that teaches you how to wriggle out from under the thumb of an unscrupulous boss or coworker, or how to deal with passive-aggressive teammates. You could even use classmates as examples.
Grammar! - Okay, fine. I was taught grammar. You were probably taught grammar. But what about our kids? They seem to only speak Text. This needs to stop. Let's bring back cursive, bring back the handwritten essays (and that bump on your middle finger), and resuscitate this beautiful language. Literature will thank you.
Common Sense - I've heard people say time and time again, half-jokingly, they wished there were a class for common sense in school. Common Sense class would cover topics like changing a tire, using a blinker, and saying 'excuse me'. Very remedial. One of my favorite comedians, Gabriel Iglesias, illustrated this idea best, during a routine where he discussed his teenage stepson's sudden aversion to personal hygiene here.
Calculus is great. I can't deny that. But we need this stuff. And our kids need this stuff.
It's time we started teaching it.
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